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Staple Bend Tunnel

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1828–1834. Beech Hill Rd. (PA 3035), 7.2 miles northwest of St. Michael

The Staple Bend Tunnel, built for the Allegheny Portage Railroad, sits atop the first of ten inclines—five up the mountains, five down—that took railcars bearing canal boats from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown, where they could reenter the canal. It was a groundbreaking enterprise, both literally and figuratively. According to the National Park Service, this is believed to be the first railroad tunnel in the United States. It was blasted out of solid bedrock at the rate of about eighteen inches per day to create a tube 901 feet in length and 20 feet in diameter. Portals at the east and west entrances are lined with cut sandstone to protect the tunnel from rock slides and other weather-related accidents. The sandstone ashlar west portal resembles a Roman triumphal arch and is embellished with paired Doric pilasters on each side of the arch. The eastern portal is roughly horseshoe-shaped and lined with cut stones. The tunnel is open to the public as part of the Staple Bend Tunnel rail trail run by the National Park Service.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Staple Bend Tunnel", [Johnstown, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 309-309.

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